Tracing an Age Shift in Those Who Dine Out

Young adults are still the ones most likely to turn up at restaurants in the evening. But the bad economy has taken a toll on this behavior, says a report by The NPD Group — more than it has on older folks’ “supper visits.”

The research firm calculated the average per capita number of supper visits to restaurants by various age cohorts in a one-year period ending November 2009 vs. a year ending November 2001. For 18-31-year-olds, the figure fell from 79 to 66 during that period. It dipped from 70 to 63 among the 32-43-year-olds, from 67 to 60 among the 44-51s and from 63 to 56 among the 52-61s. It actually rose marginally, from 48 to 49, among those 62-plus.

Viewed in tandem with the nation’s older skew as the baby boomers age, the comparative rise in older consumers’ restaurant-going “has increased the importance of more mature adults to the supper occasion,” says the report. We’ll see whether the restaurant industry’s ads start to reflect that shift.